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The Washington County Service Authority, like most water utilities, faces increasing demands on our existing financial resources. Aging infrastructure that leaks and requires frequent repairs must be replaced. Population growth calls for replacement of insufficiently sized lines, pumps, and reservoirs. New regulatory requirements have increased the capital costs and labor for both treatment and sampling. Customers expect rapid, courteous service. All these demands, with many others, increase the cost of operating the utility.

Because resources to meet these demands are limited by existing rate structures and customer acceptance of rate increases, continuous improvement is necessary to reduce the cost of existing demands, “setting free” existing resources to meet the new demands.

The Service Authority is a rural water and wastewater utility in Virginia, serving a population of approximately 45,000. The customer base is growing due to growth within the existing service area, as well as efforts to extend service to areas currently unserved. Improving our utility's performance is necessary, in order to operate and maintain our system, provide the service our customers expect, and to be able to afford necessary improvements within our rate structure.

Using AWWA/WEF's QualServe program of Self-Assessment and Peer Review as the primary tool for our improvement, our 4-part approach was:

develop an agenda for improvement,

work to implement our agenda for improvement,

measure our progress,

refine the agenda.

The achievement to date on the utility's agenda for improvement has resulted in annual cost savings/increased revenues of 765,000 (11% of annual operating budget). These include measurable improvements in “lost water,” chemical costs, and operating costs. Other results, less readily quantified, include improvements in strategic planning, customer service, and human resources.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2002-01-01

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